Author: Jean Paul Zialcita, PhD

The modern world is divided into around 195 sovereign nation-states. The Philippines is one of them, and like most of these 195, it has its own distinct history, culture, government system, set of languages and a plethora of ethnolinguistic groups which make up its citizens. But these features are not exclusive to the Philippines and the aforementioned countries. Bangsamoro, an autonomous region in the south of the country, can also claim these characteristics. Is it therefore a nation, a state or a nation-state like the Philippines?

To answer this question and others one may have about nation-building and nationalism, this chapter dives into the definitions of nations, states and nation-states to identify their differences and reveal the importance of these concepts to our society and to us as citizens of a nation.

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Most Essential Learning Competencies

  1. Analyze the forms and functions of social organizations; and
  2. Explain the forms and functions of state and non-state institutions

Content Standards

By the end of this module, learners are expected to demonstrate an understanding of:

  1. Cultural, social, and political institutions as sets of norms and patterns of behavior that relate to major social interests.

Performance Standards

By the end of this module, learners are expected to:

  1. Analyze aspects of social organization; and
  2. Identify one’s role in social groups and institutions.

Self-Evaluation Form (Part I)

Answer the following questions.

1.What do you already know about the lesson/topic?


2.What do you want to know more about the lesson/topic?


Lesson 1: The Nation and the State

Lesson Objectives

At the end of the lesson, the student is expected to be able to:

  1. Define the concepts “nation”, “state”, and “nation-state”;
  2. Identify the bases (or prerequisites) of nationhood and statehood; and
  3. Appraise the status of the Philippines as a nation and as a state.

Key Concepts

Nation – a group of people bound by their shared identity, who are living within the same geographical boundary
Nationalism – sentiment of unified loyalty towards the nation
State – political group characterized by sovereignty over a territory and authority over institutions

Study Guide

Introduction to the Lesson: Form groups of four or five members. Each group should have a facilitator who will guide and synthesize their discussion. The facilitator will share their discussion synthesize to the class.

Topic discussion:

  1. What is a nation?
  2. What is a state?
  3. On what foundations are nations built?
  4. What are the prerequisites of statehood?

What is a nation?

The word ‘nation’ comes from the Latin ‘nasci’, which means ‘to be born’. It is often used interchangeably with words such as ‘country’, ‘state’ or ‘ethnic group’. From its etymology, it seems to refer to people forming a community on the basis of having been born in the same place. Nevertheless, the reality expressed by the word is more complex. This is because it contains a blend of cultural, political, and psychological features.

Culturally, a nation is a community “bound together by a common language, religion, history and traditions” (Heywood, 2013, p. 109). Members of a nation taken in this sense form a coherent whole based on a common set of values, ideals, social norms and practices, and historical experiences. Identification with a nation sometimes comes with a belief in a common ancestry and the possession of certain physical characteristics (e.g., skin color, facial features).

Politically, a nation is “a group of people who regard themselves as a natural political community” (Heywood, 2013, P. 109), that is, one that recognizes and is subject to a common set of laws and is governed by legitimate authority in accordance with those laws. Members of a nation defined along these lines feel that they are bound together “primarily by shared citizenship, regardless of their cultural, ethnic and other loyalties” (Heywood, 2013, p. 112).

A nation also harbors a subjective or psychological feature, which is somehow captured in the definition of a nation as a group of people who “believe they belong together on the basis of a shared identity as a people” (Sodaro, 2001, as cited in Quilop, 2006, p. 2). The word ‘believe’ partly expresses this feature. It is also expressed in the idea of the nation as an ‘imagined community’ “because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (Anderson, 1991, p. 6). Finally, it is expressed in feelings of loyalty and affection that members of a nation have for each other, and for the love they feel for their country as a whole (patriotism).

Nation as a Cultural or Political Entity

There are basically two types of nations which can be identified by using either a cultural or a political perspective.

An ethnocultural (or ethnic) nation is one in which the sense of community among its members is built on belief in a common ancestry, a common language, and shared cultural traditions and practices. What binds the people in an ethnocultural nation are common ethnic and cultural attributes.

A civic nation is one in which its members are bound together as a community by a commitment to uphold a common set of civic and political institutions and liberal values such as liberty, equality, and the rule of law. In practical terms, what binds members in a civic nation, more than a shared ethnicity and culture, are laws, institutions, values, and collective goals to which they pledge their allegiance.

Membership in an ethnocultural nation tends to be exclusive to those who are born into it, while that in a civic nation is open to anyone who freely chooses to commit himself or herself to the laws and values it upholds.


Nationalism, therefore, is the sense of community and fellowship that members of a nation experience. To be nationalistic evokes from the people a sense of pride and loyalty to a nation, and, according to Durkheim (1915), a common desire to defend and sustain the nation (p. 90).

What is a state?

While the terms “state” and “nation” are sometimes used interchangeably, the state may be thought of as the nation “dressed in political garb.” It is defined as “a political association that establishes sovereign jurisdiction within defined territorial borders, and exercises authority through a set of permanent institutions” (Heywood, 2013, p. 57). The state is broader than the government as it includes all public institutions that are “responsible for the collective organization of communal life and are funded at the public’s expense” (Heywood, 2013, p. 57).

Based on this definition, a state can be seen to have the following features (Heywood, 2013, pp. 57-58):

1. The state is sovereign. It exercises absolute and unrestricted power, in that it stands above all other associations and groups in society.
2. State institutions are recognizably ‘public’, in contrast to the ‘private’ institutions of civil society. Public bodies are responsible for making and enforcing collective decisions, while private bodies, such as families, private businesses and trade unions, exist to satisfy individual interests.
3. The state is an exercise in legitimation. The decisions of the state are usually (although not necessarily) accepted as binding on the members of society because, it is claimed, they are made in the public interest, or for common good; the state supposedly reflects the permanent interests of society.
4. The state is an instrument of domination. State authority is backed up by coercion; the state must have the capacity to ensure that its laws are obeyed and that transgressors are punished. For Max Weber, the state was defined by its monopoly of the means of ‘legitimate violence’.
5. The state is a territorial association. The jurisdiction of the state is geographically defined, and it encompasses all those who live within the state’s borders, whether they are citizens or non-citizens.

From an international perspective, the basic criteria for statehood is specified in Oppenheim’s International Law as follows:

“A state proper is in existence when a people is settled in a territory under its own sovereign government. There are therefore four conditions which must obtain for the existence of a state.
There must, first, be a people. A people is an aggregate of individuals who live together as a community though they may belong to different races or creeds or cultures, or be of a different colour.
There must, second, be a territory in which the people is settled…
There must, third, be a government—that is, one or more persons who act for the people and govern according to the law of the land…
There must, fourth and last, be a sovereign government. Sovereignty is supreme authority… legal authority which is not in law dependent on any other earthly authority. Sovereignty in the strict and narrowest sense of the term implies, therefore, independence all round, within and without the borders of the country” (Jennings and Watts, 1992, as cited in Fripp, 2016, pp. 24-25).

When the two concepts of “nation” and “state” are combined, the result is the concept of the “nation-state”, which may be defined as a political community or association whose members consider themselves as belonging to a single nation. If by nation one means an ethnoculturally homogeneous community, then few states can be considered nation-states, since most states today include more than a single ethnocultural community within their sovereign territorial jurisdiction.

Self-Evaluation Form (Part 2)

Answer the following questions.

1. What have you learned from the lesson?

2. How will you apply the knowledge you have learned in this lesson in improving Philippine society?

List of Activities

Synchronous Activities (In-class) 

Activity: Nation-building
Instructions. This activity is designed to introduce students to the lesson on Nations and States and to guide their thinking towards the concept of the nation and nationalism.

Step 1. Divide the class into 3-4 groups.
Step 2. Ask each of the groups to create a fictional country. They should construct one with:
– A name
– A flag
– A geographical description, e.g., mountainous, arid, temperate etc.
– A description of the people’s culture, e.g., religious, egalitarian, independent-minded etc.
These details can be inputted using Google’s Jamboard.
Step 3. Let each of the groups present their imagined nations.
Step 4. Ask each of the groups what the most important part of their nation is.
Step 5. Ask the class on what they think makes a nation a nation.
Step 6. Continue discussion on the definition of a nation.

Asynchronous Activities

Activity: Nations vs Countries
Instructions. This activity aims to introduce the students to the basic concepts surrounding the topic of nations and states.

Step 1. Ask the students to watch “Nations vs Countries” at their own time.
Step 2. Ask them answer the following questions:
– What is the difference between ‘nations’ and ‘countries’?
– Do you think you have an obligation or responsibility to your country? Why or why not?
– How do nations gain the right to govern themselves?
Step 3. Discuss the questions and their answers in class.

Rubrics for Discussion

Lesson 2: The Filipino nation and the Philippine state

 Lesson Objectives

At the end of the lesson, the student is expected to be able to:

  • Explain the national identity of the Philippines; and
  • Explain the civic aspect of the Philippines as a nation.

Key Concepts

  • Nationhood – status of belongingness to a nation 
  • Ilustrados – members of the educated class that introduced ideals of nationalism

Idea of Nationhood

The Philippines is an archipelago with some 7,100 islands. Because of its archipelagic nature, it is also culturally diverse, with some 110 ethnolinguistic groups, the largest ones being the Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Visayan, Hiligaynon, Bicolano, and Waray ( Some degree of unity among these diverse groups was imposed by the islands’ colonizers: Spain from the early 16th to the end of the 19th century, and the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, these groups did not imagine themselves as forming one Filipino nation.

It was only towards the end of the Spanish colonial period when the idea of a Filipino nation was conceived in the minds of the illustrados (“learned” or “enlightened ones”). It was in the late 19th century when men like Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Mariano Ponce and other members of the educated class began to imagine the native inhabitants of las Islas Filipinas (indios to the Spaniards) as Filipino, a people possessing a collective history, culture, character, and genius distinct from those of their Spanish colonial masters.

It was this idea that led to the creation of the Propaganda Movement, whose purpose was to fight for reforms in the colonial administration of the islands—reforms aimed at putting the Filipino and the Spaniard on equal footing in terms of political, economic and social rights and privileges.

The Propaganda Movement of the 1880’s and 1890’s was the period in which the Filipino people became fully aware that they were not merely Tagalogs, Visayans, and Ilocanos, not merely a people united under a common Spanish colonial rule, but one people with a common destiny of its own. (Shumacher, 1975, p. 56)

As part of the effort to define the Filipino nation, prominent members of the Movement as well as others illustrados spent much time and effort to gather what might be called the building blocks of Filipino nationhood. Studies in the history, cultures, languages, folklore, sciences, religion, and politics of the islands were conducted by leading intellectuals of the time—studies that helped give birth to the idea of a Filipino nation (Mojares, 2008).

This idea, and the failure of the Spanish government to heed the call for reforms, was what led to a revolution aimed at securing full Philippine independence from Spain. More than just an armed conflict to end Spanish colonial oppression, the revolution’s goal was to establish the necessary conditions to carry out the project of constructing the political, social, and economic foundations needed by the Filipino people to secure and sustain an independent national existence. The revolution was a fight for the freedom of the Filipinos to rule themselves, to have their own state, and to be recognized by the world as a sovereign people with a collective identity and the maturity to organize and govern themselves, as well as to deal with other nations as equals.

The effort to gain independence was brought to naught, however, by the coming of the Americans. Having won the war against Spain, the United States, through the Treaty of Paris, took possession of the Philippines in exchange for $20,000,000. The Americans promised to bring democracy and enlightened self-rule to the nation as they ironically dismantled the Aguinaldo government.

This American project primarily focused on introducing the institutions of procedural democracy into Philippine politics. This included the formation of political parties, the holding of municipal and provincial elections as early as 1901 and 1902 respectively, and the establishment of the Philippine Assembly of elected representatives in 1907. Philippine governance autonomy from the Americans culminated in the creation of the Philippine Commonwealth as the final step towards full independence.

When the Americans granted independence to the Philippines after World War II, what it had created was a Philippine state organized along democratic lines. It had a government whose territorial sovereignty was recognized internationally. Filipino nationhood, however, remained an ongoing project.

The Philippines as a civic nation

Because of the Philippines’ multicultural character, Filipino nationhood cannot be based on ethnocultural homogeneity. Hence, the Filipino nation can only take the form of a civic nation—one in which Filipinos form a single nation via the commitment to pursue common goals and uphold a common set of civic and political institutions and values.

While it seems logical for the nation to precede the creation of the state—the former serving as a basis for the latter—in the Philippines, the state was established before the consolidation of the Filipinos’ sense of nationhood.

[F]or most countries in Asia, including the Philippines, states preceded the consolidation of national identities as Western colonizers established governments to facilitate the governance of newfound territories. As the decolonization process took place, these territories became the boundaries of newly independent nation-states that were composed of several ethnolinguistic groups. This could probably help explain why it is relatively difficult for people living in the Philippine archipelago to imagine themselves as being part of the Filipino nation. (Quilop, 2006, p. 4)

The state, however, could act as an agent of nation building through a civic education program that would aim to foster a sense of the common good that encompasses not just one’s immediate family, town, or province, but the entire country. It also ought to seek to give all citizens “a sense of belongingness in a national community that provides opportunities to attain economic well-being, participation in the national policy-making process, and an understanding and appreciation of varied cultural identities and practices” (Quilop, 2006, p. 6). This greater sense of belongingness would be the result of citizens realizing that their good is linked to the well-being of the entire country, that the country’s well-being is in their hands and not just the government’s, and that they have a say in the making of public policy that benefits all.

There are, however, many challenges to the formation of a Philippine national identity. Aside from its multicultural character, the Philippines suffers from deep-seated and enduring social, economic, and political inequalities which present major obstacles to national unity.

Self-Evaluation Form (Part 2)

Answer the following questions.

What have you learned from the lesson?

2. How will you apply the knowledge you have learned in this lesson in improving Philippine society?

List of Activities

Synchronous Activities (In-class) 

Activity: Discussion
Instructions. (Students may be divided into small groups to discuss answers to the questions below.)

1. What makes one a Filipino?
2. How might the state endeavor to foster a sense of nationhood among the people within its territorial jurisdiction?
3. How can ordinary citizens contribute to nation building?
4. What are the challenges to the formation of a Filipino national identity?

Asynchronous Activities

Activity: Filipinos and the Philippines
Instructions. This activity aims to evoke critical thinking and encourage further understanding of the topic through the lens of a Filipino citizen

Step 1. Ask students to watch “Filipinos Lack Sense of Nationalism.”
Step 2. Let them answer the following questions:
1. Why did Prof. Eric de Torres say that Filipinos lack a sense of nationalism?
2. According to him, what can remedy this lack of nationalism?
3. Do you agree with his points? Why or why not?
4. In your own opinion, how can Filipino nationalism grow and be nurtured today?
Step 3. Discuss the questions and answers in class.

Rubrics for Discussion

Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined communities (revised edition). London: Verso.
Fripp, A. (2016). Nationality and statelessness in the international law of refugees. Oxford and Portland, Oregon: Hart Publishing.
Heywood, A. (2013). Politics (4th edition). New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Mojares, R. (2008). Brains of the Nation: Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, Isabelo de los Reyes and the production of modern knowledge. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Quilop, R. (2006). “Nation-state formation in the Philippines”, in T. Tadem and N. Morada (Eds.). Philippine politics and governance: An introduction. Quezon City: Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines. pp. 1-12.
Schumacher, J. (1975). “Philippine higher education and the origins of nationalism.” Philippine Studies, 23(1/2), 53-65. Stable URL:

Learning Materials

What is Nationalism? []
Nations vs. Countries. []
What is Civic Nationalism? []
Quilop, R. (2006). “Nation-state formation in the Philippines”, in T. Tadem and N. Morada (Eds.). Philippine politics and governance: An introduction. Quezon City: Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines. pp. 1-12.
Sodaro, M. (2007). Comparative politics: A global introduction (3rd edition). New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Chapter 6: “States and nations: Nationalism, nation building, supranationalism,” pp. 147-170.